What else than a natural and mighty palimpsest is the human brain? […] Everlasting layers of ideas, images and feelings, have fallen upon your brain softly as light. Each succession has seemed to bury all that went before. And yet in reality not one has been extinguished.

Thomas de Quincey

Henryka Molenda and Julian Kaczmarek were born during World War II on the territory of the Second Polish Republic. Henryka was born in 1942 in Radowicze, within the Kovel district in Volyn region. Julian was born two years earlier, in Podborowo, within the Szamotuły district in the Poznań voivodeship.

Julian’s parents, along with their  five children, moved voluntarily from Podborowo to Grotów, erstwhile Modderwiese in Königreich Preußen / Deutsches Reich, Brandenburg (until 1938)/ Pommern (1938-1945), Kreis Friedeberg (Neumark). In accordance with the provisions of the Potsdam Conference 17.VII -2.VIII.1945,  Modderwiese came under Polish jurisdiction. Julian’s parents took over a house in Grotów after William Klaus. The lands transferred to the Polish State in 1945, were inhabited by approx. 3 million Germans and 1 million Poles. As a result of the war in 1944-1945 the majority of the German population left the western and northern areas of contemporary Poland.

Henryka and Julian met in 1962 in Słupsk, in the former Koszalin voivodeship, in accordance with the administrative division of the Polish People’s Republic in years 1957-1975. They got married a year later, in 1963. There was a civil ceremony and a Catholic wedding in church. The conclusion of a so-called concordat marriage was impossible at that time. An agreement between the Holy See and Poland was signed many years later, in 1998, in an independent and sovereign Third Polish Republic.

Julian’s siblings waived the family house in Grotów, inherited from parents, for the youngest brother. With the retiring in 1994, Julian and his wife settled permanently in Grotów. They are passionate about history of the region and support local initiatives with substantive knowledge of Grotów’s past. They commemorate and share their complex family stories, entwined with the biography of Grotów – Modderwiese and its inhabitants.

* * *

Olender settlements in Poland were initiated in years 1527/1540 by the Dutch mennonites (named in old Polish Olędrzy- Olenders) in Żuławy, the alluvial delta area of Vistula River, because of their special skills of controlling flood lands, swamps and areas situated along banks of rivers. The process of colonization of these hard-to-reach lands was continued by their descendants, predominantly by the Germans from Church of Augsburg confession (Lutherans), in smaller degree from Evangelical Reformed Church (Calvinists) as well as Poles.

Modderwiese was founded in 1702 and is one of the oldest settlements connected with the colonization of Olender descendants in this region. It was named Modderwiese after the nature of the area – mud meadows. The current name – Grotów was borrowed from the German name of the local lake – Grottowsee. Today it is called Jezioro Grotowskie/ Grotów Lake. Like in other colonies, the settlers were called „repatriates” -German families, often coming back to these lands after years of absence.

The village is located on a huge glade in the center of Puszcza Notecka. The most interesting preserved architectural elements are hidden in forests. These include:

– the school, built in 1871, shortly after a fire destroyed the old school building in 1869. Fortunately, the school chronicle preserved. It covers the years 1703 – 1935. The post office started functioning in 1878. Slightly later, in 1897, some post boxes were put on the school yard;

– the present neo-gothic church, built in 1887, on the site of the old one, wooden or half-timbered. A belfry of steel construction, dated to 1893, accompanies the building;

– the old evangelical cemetery with gravestones from the XVIII to XX century;

– half-timbered buildings with roofs covered with reeds (preserved until recently) and buildings whit walls and elevations made of hewn fieldstone. They can be seen also in other neighboring places;

Moreover, there are evidences (pictures, notes) that on 9th September 1930 pm. 3:45 the “Graf Zeppelin” flew over Modderwiese during its flight around the world. There is a stone with a plaque commemorating this historical event and the eyewitness of this episode- Ingetroud Melke, visited Grotów some time ago.

* * *

The movie was filmed by Dąbrówka Stępniewska in Grotów, in the administrative district of Gmina Drezdenko, within Strzelce-Drezdenko County, Lubusz Voivodeship, western Poland, in August 2015.

 

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